The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > Cafe Society

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 12-17-2012, 08:35 PM
Smeghead Smeghead is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Dammit, British TV shows, quit losing actors!

Minor spoilers ahead, about various British shows that have replaced most or all of their cast from time to time.

It just happened to me yet again. I was catching up on the latest series of Misfits, which had already written off most of the original characters and replaced them with less interesting replacements, and boom. The last remaining original was killed off in a cheesy, hastily written way that he totally didn't deserve. No buildup, no resolution. Just, "Oh, we're going to kill him off now." Argh!

This happens to SO MANY British shows! It drives me nuts. Let's list some that were either ruined or seriously hurt by cast replacements, off the top of my head: MI-5/Spooks, Misfits, Becoming Human, Hustle, Monarch of the Glen, even effing Are You Being Served. Dr Who, of course, is the unique example of a show that manages to turn the constant turnover into a strength. There are tons more I'm forgetting.

The thing is, once the shedding of actors starts, it becomes a nonstop distraction that prevents the show from actually telling interesting stories. Especially because there are so few episodes per series, each show is either about getting rid of an old character, introducing a replacement, or both. Spooks was particularly bad about that, as I recall. You never get time to actually get interested in the new people because anyone who's not dying or getting started has to get shoved into the background while we focus on that episode's cast change. And suddenly you're watching a whole other show about a whole other group of people, and you can't help but feel that it's an inferior copy.

I think Monarch of the Glen had some of the most poorly done replacements. It's been a few years since I watched it, and I wasn't that big a fan to begin with, so forgive my memory. As I recall, series 1 revolved around a love triangle, with the main character bouncing between woman A and woman B, all building up to the dramatic climax where he chooses woman A and they decide to get married. YAY! Then series two starts, and off screen, woman A had taken a job in New Zealand or something equally ridiculous, and he had decided that woman B was the better option after all. Ridiculous. And it just got worst from there. We didn't watch much more of it.

I guess I don't get why this is such a problem over there. Why are actors all so eager to bail out of a successful show? Are lucrative acting jobs that much more common over there? Are TV jobs really badly paid? I've heard that in the US, when a new show is picked up, all of the actors are signed to a standard 7-year contract, so if it lasts that long, they're guaranteed the same cast. I don't know why that works here and not in the UK. Given the fewer episodes made per year, it seems like it would less burdensome to have a contract like that in the UK. I don't know. But sort it out, blast it!
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 12-17-2012, 09:03 PM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Where the wild roses grow
Posts: 19,975
I don't watch most of the shows you've listed, but I think Hustle got better with the change-up. It also ended at the right time in suitably spectacular fashion.

I think getting rid of Blake, and having less than 7 characters, was a strange way for Blake's 7 to progress.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 12-17-2012, 09:11 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Schenectady, NY, USA
Posts: 35,714
My favorite UK show, Misfits* started shedding actors after the second season and by the middle of the fourth had a completely different cast. However, it hasn't stopped the show from being fascinating. One actor actually left the show for other projects; most of the others were victims of plot twists. Another left after a serious controversy in real life, though that supposedly had nothing to do with the decision.

The show was able add new actors and move on, and the turnover helped to keep it fresh (as did a big switch at the end of Season 2.

But the point is that the show can do what it wants with a character -- even kill them off -- for plot reasons, and isn't locked in with the same characters for seven years. It also manages to add subplots and interesting characters because its setup means that everyone has a secret to reveal.

It works for other dramas. I remember The Sandbaggers doing something very similar at the end of the first season, which was one of the most shocking moments in TV history.

*Watch it on Hulu -- it's amazing. Four seasons are available; the first two are the best superhero show ever to run anywhere at any time.
__________________
"East is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does."
Purveyor of fine science fiction since 1982.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 12-17-2012, 09:14 PM
alphaboi867 alphaboi867 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: the Keystone State
Posts: 11,311
Aren't British actors signed up for each series (season in US English) instead of the American practice of signing actors to 5-7 yr contracts before the pilot is shot?
__________________
No Gods, No Masters
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 12-17-2012, 09:21 PM
Mahaloth Mahaloth is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: 地球
Posts: 22,141
I'm nearly finished with Being Human season 4 just now and I think the cast changes have improved the show quite a bit.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 12-18-2012, 05:18 AM
SanVito SanVito is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by alphaboi867 View Post
Aren't British actors signed up for each series (season in US English) instead of the American practice of signing actors to 5-7 yr contracts before the pilot is shot?
I believe so. I don't know how contracts work in the US, and I'm no employment lawyer, but I would imagine that a 5-7 year contract in the UK would be binding on both parties i.e., if the show was cancelled, the actors would still get paid for the duration of the contract. Which obviously the shows don't want to risk.

Perhaps a British lawyer can chip in. Do we have any?
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 12-18-2012, 05:30 AM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: NH
Posts: 19,644
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smeghead View Post
Let's list some that were either ruined or seriously hurt by cast replacements, off the top of my head: MI-5/Spooks, Misfits, Becoming Human, Hustle, Monarch of the Glen, even effing Are You Being Served. Dr Who, of course, is the unique example of a show that manages to turn the constant turnover into a strength. There are tons more I'm forgetting.
Primeval is a good example of this. I haven't finished watching the 5th series yet, but by the beginning of it, not only have they killed off/written out all but three of the original cast members, they've killed off most of the first replacements too!
__________________
Stalk follow me on Twitter
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 12-18-2012, 06:27 AM
SanVito SanVito is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
I liked the fact that Spooks would kill off lead characters at a whim. It added to the suspense. There was none of that 'yeah, right, the terrorist will threaten the good guy but that's it because they would never kill him off'. In Spooks it was "yeah, they'll never do that...WTF! They just did!'.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 12-18-2012, 06:31 AM
rocking chair rocking chair is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mahaloth View Post
I'm nearly finished with Being Human season 4 just now and I think the cast changes have improved the show quite a bit.
i'm looking forward to hal in series 5.

they did the 3 main cast changes really well.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 12-18-2012, 08:49 AM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 16,971
Quote:
Originally Posted by SanVito View Post
I liked the fact that Spooks would kill off lead characters at a whim. It added to the suspense. There was none of that 'yeah, right, the terrorist will threaten the good guy but that's it because they would never kill him off'. In Spooks it was "yeah, they'll never do that...WTF! They just did!'.
I agree. In fact, in the second episode of the first series, one of the agents died in a particularly gory fashion.

And I particularly like how Skins handled cast changes. The characters were attending a two-year college (sixth form, in UK language). So the first two series featured one group of kids, who then graduated and scattered. The next four series featured two more groups, each for two years, after which the cast changed completely. Much better than the US approach, where kids manage to stay together. (The worst example is Boy Meets World, in which the kids stayed together from grade school, though high school and even into college. And one teacher even moved with them.)
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 12-18-2012, 12:12 PM
ftg ftg is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
I thought this was going to be about Downton Abbey.

(Hiding mildish spoilers. Not going to post the full ones.)

SPOILER:
One big loss during Season 3 and at least one very big loss for Season 4.


And I'm still royally irked for Richard Coyle bailing on Coupling. He wanted to be taken seriously as an actor, yada-yada. Didn't exactly work out. People never learn.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 12-18-2012, 12:28 PM
teela brown teela brown is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Doc Martin kept shedding actors during its run.

I didn't mind the first loss, though. The first receptionist was an obnoxious bint, and they replaced her with Katherine Parkinson (Jen from The IT Crowd), who I liked much better. All the subsequent replacement actors and actresses were a great loss.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 12-18-2012, 12:49 PM
Ashley Pomeroy Ashley Pomeroy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
It works for other dramas. I remember The Sandbaggers doing something very similar at the end of the first season, which was one of the most shocking moments in TV history.
Doomwatch pulled a similar trick, killing off a main character at the end of the first series (in this case he didn't want to come back for the second series). Blackadder tended to kill off the cast, too, mainly as a joke, although in each case there was never a guarantee that the show would continue. If anything it was impressive that they managed to assemble more or less the same cast for each series, given that they were all in demand elsewhere.

The odd thing is that here in Britain I tend to think of American shows getting rid of cast members willy-nilly - the actor playing Cousin Hank goes up into the attic at the end of an episode and never comes down again, didn't something like that happen in Happy Days? And wasn't Face from The A-Team a different chap in the first few episodes? This is because American society is very much a disposable, dog-eat-dog society where actors are treated like the lemon tissues you have in your burger bar rock'n'roll juke joint restaurants that you have over there.

British series tend to be shorter, filmed over a couple of weeks, so there's less time for the actors to change. Soap operas have a special black hole field whereby the actors find themselves trapped in the role and can never leave. Albeit that this has changed over the last ten years or so; when I think of top British TV drama from the 1980s I think of fairly short runs spread out over a long period.

There is a stereotype that British actors prefer the stage, and pooh-pooh TV as a means of paying the bills. But both Mark McManus and Jeremy Brett were prepared to work themselves to death for the same of Taggart and Sherlock Holmes, and did so, because there aren't all that many plum roles on British telly.

Cracker, that's another one. Killed off Doctor Who, no less. Introduced Begbie in the very same story. As if one had burst from the cocoon of the other. Odd thought there.

Last edited by Ashley Pomeroy; 12-18-2012 at 12:50 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 12-18-2012, 03:39 PM
Mk VII Mk VII is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: England
Posts: 2,284
Actors who stick with a role for years tend to get typecast (or fear getting typecast) and find new work difficult to get. They prefer to move on to new challenges while casting directors are still interested in them.

It's rare to expect a show to run seven years, and few shows would have the stamina to run that long, given that the batteries of writers US shows use are not common here -frequently a show will have one, or two, writers. We also have a cultural expectation that they should not flog the format into the ground until it collapses in an exhausted heap (and yes, Friends, I'm looking at you)

Last edited by Mk VII; 12-18-2012 at 03:42 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 12-18-2012, 03:55 PM
Mtgman Mtgman is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Quote:
Originally Posted by ftg View Post
And I'm still royally irked for Richard Coyle bailing on Coupling. He wanted to be taken seriously as an actor, yada-yada. Didn't exactly work out. People never learn.
I blame Moffat for that. Instead of writing out the Jeff character he created a new "not-Jeff" that was "really-Jeff." Beyond that, he also did imaginary one-sided conversations with "Jeff" and even had a character hallucinate a guest appearance for "Jeff"(played by a different actor). Really? Who thought that was a good idea? The end result was we wanted Jeff but never really got him, and it made the show feel wrong. About the only funny thing Oliver ever did was have nipple erections, and that was just a cheap laugh. I couldn't see Oliver pulling off an episode like "The Girl with Two Breasts."

I really like the fact that UK shows change up their casts. It's one of the things I like most about Misfits, and clearly it's done wonders for Dr Who.

Enjoy,
Steven
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 12-18-2012, 05:18 PM
alphaboi867 alphaboi867 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: the Keystone State
Posts: 11,311
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
...And I particularly like how Skins handled cast changes. The characters were attending a two-year college (sixth form, in UK language). So the first two series featured one group of kids, who then graduated and scattered. The next four series featured two more groups, each for two years, after which the cast changed completely. Much better than the US approach, where kids manage to stay together...
Yeah, that was much more organic than the usual American approach. They also had a 1st generation character's little sister in a recurring role for 2 series; then a main character in the 2nd generation. I was a bit miffed that they never found an excuse for Tony to cameo in any of Effy's storylines though.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 12-18-2012, 07:43 PM
dropzone dropzone is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Cloud Cuckoo Land
Posts: 23,246
I watched the first few episodes of Misfits and I'm glad to see they finally killed off the entire original cast. I may give it another try.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 12-20-2012, 04:46 PM
Snooooopy Snooooopy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Jacksonville, N.C.
Posts: 9,867
Regarding MI-5, Smeghead, what would have been your dream cast? Would you have stuck with the originals, or was there a later season in which you felt they finally got the mix just right and needed to stop with all the tinkering?
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 12-24-2012, 12:09 AM
maliland maliland is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
This also happened with Teachers and in no way helped the storyline.
I'm in full support of actors moving on to bigger and better things, however major characters disappeared without any explanation.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 12-24-2012, 09:04 PM
Yookeroo Yookeroo is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: San Clemente, California
Posts: 4,630
I'm getting caught up on Shameless. The 4th season started to focus on the Maguires who I can live without. Looking ahead (Wikipedia), it looks like it steadily drops Gallaghers and features Maquires? I'm out.

Not that I have anything against changes in casting, even major ones, but in this case, I can't see me continuing.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 12-24-2012, 10:24 PM
AK84 AK84 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by SanVito View Post
I believe so. I don't know how contracts work in the US, and I'm no employment lawyer, but I would imagine that a 5-7 year contract in the UK would be binding on both parties – i.e., if the show was cancelled, the actors would still get paid for the duration of the contract. Which obviously the shows don't want to risk.

Perhaps a British lawyer can chip in. Do we have any?
Not British, but trained in English law. Seminal case in Anglia TV v Reed [1971] 3 ALL ER 690, CA. If you repudiate a contract for the production of a show which Appellant Reed ( of Brady Bunch fame) did, you are liable for wasted costs, but not usually for losses of profit as that cannot be properly quantified, the show might have been unsuccessful.

Last edited by AK84; 12-24-2012 at 10:26 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 12-25-2012, 01:12 PM
BrokenBriton BrokenBriton is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 1,708
It's just low budget tv drama that goes from season to season - no long contracts, no one wants them. What's different about the US market is that any tv hit is a cash cow, and it's milked until it dies. Not the case in the UK - Misfits was popular enough (for Channel 4) but no big deal, certainly didn't have the budget to prevent cast moving on to better paid work if offers came in.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 12-25-2012, 03:03 PM
Bridget Burke Bridget Burke is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Houston
Posts: 6,975
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mk VII View Post
Actors who stick with a role for years tend to get typecast (or fear getting typecast) and find new work difficult to get. They prefer to move on to new challenges while casting directors are still interested in them.

It's rare to expect a show to run seven years, and few shows would have the stamina to run that long, given that the batteries of writers US shows use are not common here -frequently a show will have one, or two, writers. We also have a cultural expectation that they should not flog the format into the ground until it collapses in an exhausted heap (and yes, Friends, I'm looking at you)
One British show that has suffered from this writing model is Downton Abbey. Lord Fellowes came up with one series worth of posh soap opera when he was given the opportunity. It became a huge success, but he hadn't heard of the American concepts of "showrunner" or multi-season character or plot arcs. Many of us think the writing for Series 2 suffered; initial reports indicate Series 3 is somewhat better. But only somewhat. Reports on the Christmas show will be available soon....

In a recent Vanity Fair article, it was said that Fellowes had never had a co-writer; his wife is his "editor." Diligent fans found co-writer names attached to two series 1 episodes--but none since then. Might better writing have helped convince certain cast members to stay?

Moffat, et al., have more of a clue about running shows. But Doctor Who is a special case; it is expected that the cast--even the leading man--will change....
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 04:07 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.